Belfast Company in Food Safety Breakthrough

With support from Invest Northern Ireland, Belfast company, Xenosense, has developed a unique testing kit that will make a major contribution to enhancing food safety.

Modern agriculture requires the use of drugs to protect animal health but there is growing concern that small amounts of drugs such as antibiotics are being passed into food consumed by the public.

Xenosense- a spin out company from Queen’s University - has developed innovative products that give information about how much and what type of drug residue is present in food. This allows food producers to quality control their output in an effective and efficient way.

The project has been supported by Invest NI’s Compete programme which aims to help local companies become more competitive by providing support for developing innovative market-led products and manufacturing processes. The programme is part funded by the EU Building Sustainable Prosperity fund.

Dr Andrew Baxter, General Manager of Xenosense comments: “We knew that there was a crucial need to develop faster ways of performing multi-residue antibiotic testing. Our new testing kit for a group of antibiotics called Sulfonamides, based on the latest Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) sensor technology, is user friendly, reliable and reusable. It can detect 18 Sulfonamide drugs in a single analysis and at much lower levels than other methods currently being used, which makes it an important breakthrough in food safety. Support from Invest NI was crucial in allowing us to develop a commercial product.”

The company, which is based in the Innovation Centre at the Northern Ireland Science Park in Belfast, worked with Queen’s University to develop the technology. Its target market is the European and national food monitoring laboratories as well as food companies, but since the launch, a lot of interest in the new product has been expressed by companies in the US and in South-East Asia.

Tracy Meharg, managing director of innovation and capability development in Invest NI, says: “This is an excellent example of a commercial opportunity emerging out of our research base. Invest NI funding ensured this spin out company was able to exploit its research and create a commercially viable product.

“Xenosense can now utilise the leading edge technology developed through this project to create further products for a hi-growth sector and help position Northern Ireland as a leader in this field.”